June 2018

Member Perspectives: What do professional standards mean to you, and why are they important?

  • By AusIMM

‘AusIMM professional standards have been an integral part of my working life as an employee and, later in my career, as a consultant.’

Annette Pocock MAusIMM

Policy Advisor, New Zealand Petroleum & Minerals, Ministry of Business, Innovation & Employment – New Zealand

Professional standards mean acting in a way that exemplifies high moral and ethical standards. In my opinion, professional standards are defined by the professional knowledge, skill and behaviour expected of AusIMM members.

From a behaviour aspect, it means having high standards of ethical behaviour, for example not letting the stress or pressures of the situation compromise treating people with respect, and always acting in a manner that is positive and constructive.

From a knowledge side, professional standards means being qualified in the area of expertise in which proficiency is claimed. For example, having experience or education to competently preform the task required.

From a skill perspective, professional standards means applying knowledge or experience in the appropriate context, knowing the limitations of your knowledge and asking for help as needed.

For me the main key of professional standards is that they involve a code of rules, ethics and/or conduct that maintains and promotes public confidence in the work of the professionals within the organisation, with repercussions if these rules are broken. Accountability and holding people to the required standard is an important aspect of professional standards and if someone is below the expected standards, they need to be held accountable for non-professional behaviour.

Professional standards are important to build integrity in a professional organisation like the AusIMM. Integrity comes from being honest and having strong moral principles.

Charlie Sartain FAusIMM

Managing Director, Sartain Enterprises Pty Ltd

A well-defined set of professional standards encapsulates an ethical framework that should guide our personal and professional development throughout our careers.

It is instructive to reflect on the fact that many successful organisations strive to summarise behavioural expectations of their people through a set of ‘corporate values’. These values become particularly powerful drivers of organisational performance if they are both well-aligned to personal values of people within the organisation and can be effectively harnessed towards the achievement of clearly articulated corporate objectives. Typical examples of corporate values that are promoted within organisations include: safety, integrity, respect, teamwork, accountability, innovation, honesty and openness.

At a professional level, our association with the AusIMM commits us to abide by the Code of Ethics, which by definition is our set of ‘core values’ or professional standards. Interestingly, the values prescribed in the Code of Ethics are remarkably similar to those we see in corporate values statements, with references to safety, health and welfare, integrity, honesty, equity and the encouragement of professional development. This is perhaps not surprising given the resonance that these core values have with many people.

From my perspective, however, what sets these professional standards apart, and in my view takes them to a higher level, is the more altruistic purpose behind them, which is to advance the sciences applying to the minerals industry for the benefit of the community.

Geoff Sharrock HonFAusIMM(CP)

AusIMM President, 2013-14

AusIMM professional standards were ‘top of mind’ when I visited our members overseas during my time as President in 2013 and 2014. I found members in many places who had great respect for AusIMM’s brand and reputation. Visiting members in Hong Kong, Jakarta, Beijing, Cardiff and London brought home to me how proud these professionals were to identify as members of our Institute, because of what it meant to them in relation to ethics, standards and codes. Our brand is particularly very highly regarded in Asia.

I also met many AusIMM members when I officially opened a number of AusIMM conferences in this period. Many members attending were from other countries. At each conference, members approached me as President an extoled the virtues of our Institute, the professional codes, ethics and the high standard of our publications.

So, it was these members from overseas who really gave me the insight that professional standards are something that sets us apart from other associations.

AusIMM professional standards have been an integral part of my working life as an employee and, later in my career, as a consultant. I was proud to be identified as an AusIMM Fellow as I had in my mind our code of ethics, particularly as they relate to the idea of community responsibility and the ethics of dealing with clients and other members of the AusIMM.

Jacqui Coombes FAusIMM

General Manager Innovation, METS Ignited

Perhaps the best way I can answer this question is with reference to the natural world. The Pilanesberg elephants of South Africa were a gang of testosterone-charged delinquent juvenile elephants. When still cute youngsters, these elephants were removed from their herd in the Kruger National Park and relocated to the nearby newly created Pilanesberg Reserve. This gang of youngsters were soon wreaking havoc: killing and mutilating rhinos, trampling and sending shudders through the reserve. Their behaviour only stopped when mature bull elephants were introduced to the reserve. These seasoned leaders reinforced behavioural standards by setting good examples. Tranquility and order prevailed.

In the same way that the mature elephants instilled expectations among the young, our professional societies provide a framework that legitimises professional standards. These standards develop the public trust in what we do and how we contribute to the broader community and help establish our credibility.

Standards provide the benchmark of who we are professionally, how we regard each other, and what we expect of ourselves, our peers and our community. Central to these expectations is a Code of Ethics, our codified set of standards. When we join the AusIMM, we explicitly agree to abide by the Code of Ethics. These are non-negotiable and set the rules by which our peers judge our behaviour.

More than keeping us from going rogue, our professional standards, articulated in the AusIMM Code of Ethics and the associated complaints process, offer a framework to guide dignified, responsible and effective contributions as mining professionals and help inform us in complex socio-technical decision making.

Join the conversation: What do professional standards mean to you, and why are they important? Comment below.

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